When Google began its initiative in 2004 to digitize 15 million books within a decade from university and public libraries, the project was met with immediate resistance by some authors and publishers who objected to the decision to include books still protected under copyright. The Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild of America sued Google for copyright infringement while Google defended its Google Book Search service saying that the project should be considered fair use. Recently an out-of-court settlement was reached between the parties, and individual authors and copyright holders have until May 5, 2009 to decide whether to opt-out of the class action lawsuit.
Is the settlement in the best interest of authors, publishers, libraries, and the public? Critics of the settlement argue that it “turns book authors into fully subordinated, last-in-line net residuaries” and that it “creates a fundamental change in the digital world by consolidating power in the hands of one company.” But Google and the Association of American Publishers contend that the settlement will bring unprecedented online access to all readers of in-copyright content, with Google co-founder Sergey Brin stating “The real victors are all the readers. The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips.”
This event brings together different sides of the debate to discuss the settlement, its implications and the broader issues of orphan works and digital libraries.